How to Get Rid of Squatters

Written on June 8, 2015 by , updated on December 28, 2015

SquattersWhen your tenant remains on your property without paying rent, he’s called a holdover tenant, also known as a tenancy at sufferance.

But you can also consider him to be a squatter – a person who unlawfully occupies property you own.

Sometimes squatters hold a certain attitude, as if they have rights to your property. And depending on the circumstances, and the local laws, they sometimes do.

That’s right! If a squatter has been allowed to occupy a property for some time, they might have the same landlord-tenant rights as holdover tenants.

Some jurisdictions are friendlier to squatters than others are. San Francisco, for example, has a tenants’ union that helps squatters stay on your property.

A Common Problem

Pay attention to this case, particularly if you live in the California:

What about Trespassers?

Let’s say you have rental property that has been vacant and you haven’t been to visit it for a while. When you do go … surprise! You find some uninvited and unwelcome residents living there. Can you kick them out?

It depends. In some cities, if squatters turned on utilities at that address in their name, they might be able to claim residency. Even though these people are stealing your property, the police consider this a civil, not a criminal, matter.

To get the squatters out, you would need to open a court case. Fun, huh? You probably know that most court systems aren’t exactly the epitome of efficiency. The case could take months or even years to resolve.

This is the dark side of landlording, and it’s a huge flaw in the justice system.

What You Can’t Do

If you find an unwelcome squatter living on your property or if you have a tenant who stopped paying rent, you can’t do the following:

  • Put padlocks on the place to keep him out
  • Shut off utilities
  • Try to intimidate him in any way

Courts could view those acts as self-help, or illegal, and could fine you.

Regarding shutting off utilities, it’s probably better to keep them on anyway. Your squatter might improvise by using candles that could start a fire. He also might continue to use the bathroom facilities … even when they aren’t working. Enough said there.

What You Should Do

Try to avoid a squatter situation from happening. If you plan to leave your property vacant, make sure that it’s secure. You or a property management company should also check on the place regularly.

If you already have a squatter, here’s what you could do:

  1. Call the Police
    Act immediately if you discover a squatter by calling the police. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be for the courts to think you gave this person consent to be there. If the police declare this a civil matter and won’t remove the squatter, start the eviction process.
  2. Give Notice, and then File an Unlawful Detainer action
    Once you serve the eviction notice, you could get lucky, and the squatter might leave. If not, you’ll need to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit, which is the formal way to evict. Make sure you follow your state’s laws.
  3. Hire the Sheriff to Force the Squatter Out
    If the squatter is still sticking around after you’ve won your lawsuit, you’ll need to pay for a sheriff or police officer to get him out.
  4. Legally Handle the Abandoned Personal Property
    Find out what you can and cannot do with any stuff the squatter might have left behind. You probably can’t just get rid of it and would need to follow proper procedure for your jurisdiction. Many times, you can place it in a storage unit at the tenant’s expense. If they don’t pay to remove the items, the storage facility will auction it off.


Property owners need to do what they can to protect themselves against squatters.

Unfortunately, the law favors squatters by treating them as tenants even though this is unfair to owners. It places the hardship on legal owners instead of on wrongful squatters. Until there are laws that give landlords immediate relief and that punish the squatters, we’ll see this problem continue.

Have you ever had a problem with a squatter? If so, share your story in the comments below.

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401 CommentsLeave a Comment

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  • Emma

    Rented to a couple and the womans son. They were okay up until the woman’s boyfriend tried to rape me in my sleep when no one was home. Told my bf and we told her. She didnt believe us bc he pays every thing for her. Her side man comes when the bf isnt home. I made a pokice report they couldn’t do much since i had no evidence of what he tried to do to me. Tried to get them to leave at this point if we didn’t we were gonna evicted too. The couple both got violent with me. Police still wont do anything. I am 4 months pregnant. We changed the locks to the house and thru their stuff outside. Now shes accusing me of all sorts of accusations. Im jist protecting myself and my 1 year old and my baby on the way.

  • william walker

    I have a small farm property with 2 houses and a shop that i had been renting. A person wanted to buy it,and made me an offer. He said he had access to larg amounts of money and could pay for it
    in 4 years or less. If things went bad, it would be paid in less than 10 years.

    I removed the original tenants and he moved in. But it took more than a year to get the down payment and any rent. He said he was spending on property,

    Nothing notorised or filed, but he changed deal every 3 months for 2 years then quit paying

    No pay for 5 years. cant evict

  • Noele B

    I have a person who has a shipping container on my land. I want it removed. he is refusing to remove it threatening to take legal action against me. He did improvements to the property without my permission and wants to be repaid for them or be given the lot. I simply want the container removed. want are my options. please advise.

    • Anne Mills

      Not sure about your state laws, but you could move it to the street, if it’s outside, and then report it abandoned. Otherwise, take it to a storage facility, pay the first month’s rent, notify the owner. Be sure this is within your states laws. It’s different if he is physically living there.

    • jim sadler

      Depending upon how long he has been there and perhaps whether he payed property taxes on the lot you may have a huge problem. He might actually own the lot. Sometimes the law and the courts will actually work against you. It sound like the lot might be remote and if you can get away with it get on top of that container and drill large holes all over the roof. He will have one heck of a problem proving that you drilled those holes. You might even have a friend do it and watch him go nuts trying to prove that you did it. You might even decide to put a big fish pond next to the place so he can’t easily get a vehicle near the container. In other words if he is playing dirty you might also have to play dirty.

  • Kathy Miller

    I hired a former tenant to be apartment manager as at-will employee. Free apartment was part of compensation. Contract specified if fired, they would leave in fifteen days. She vandalized my property and I immediately terminated her employment but she won’t leave. I gave no tenant notices, only gave termination letter and demand that they leave as specified in the contract. Can I go to court to evict as Unlawful Detainer? or any problem?

  • Ronda

    Hi – I live with my husband in an up/down duplex in Cleveland, OH. Shortly after moving in, I began to be ORALLY RAPED by unknown males after I fall asleep at night and subsequently rendered unconscious (there is NO WAY I would stay asleep during such ordeals). Police/rape kits done.. These rapists are coming from the 1st floor unit through one o two crawl spaces – none of which I can find. The 1st floor tenant has been evicted as of 2/5/18; however, she still enters the unit w/friends at night and wait for me to fall asleep. I’ve called the police, but they ‘run and hide’… The landlord is unresponsive an is trying to sell the house, which he offered to us. I need answers FIRST. Please, what else can I legally do? Thank You!

    • Jamie Lynne

      How do you know this is happening to you? And where the hell is your husband while this is happening? Sounds like a made up story by a paranoid or possibly mentally ill person or someone who just wants attention. Unless you have proof or a better story with answers to these questions…?

      • Ronda

        Well, “Jamie Lynne”.. ‘How do I know this is happening to me?’🤔 Judging by your outrageously rash reply, your comment sounds like the typical, judgmental statement that is all too commonly directed at victims experiencing situations WAY over their heads! Also, are in some way ‘affiliated’ with these scum of the earth, insecure DOGS who take great sadistic pleasure in targeting and raping adults, as well as CHILDREN, while rendered completely unconscious in their homes? Are you aware of the fact that the SAME EXACT PHENOMENON (a child pedophilia ring, to be exact) was blown wide open recently? Btw, are you a medical doctor? A PhD? If not, I think you should limit your assessments about my mental status by just plain shutting up, hmm?

        • Jamie Lynne

          Still didn’t answer the question… how do you know this is “happening to you” if you are asleep while it occurs? And where is your husband while this is “happening to you in the night?”

          I never claimed anything. I stated that this story seems highly unlikely and that it seems like a story someone would makeup for attention; but I also stated that if you can answer those two questions, reiterated above, I would be more inclined to believe you….

          So again, can you please answer those questions?

        • Bernie Taryen

          Totally insane and ridiculous!

        • Lisa Parker

          Harsh and judgemental or not, you obviously need a exorcist or a psychiatrist, perhaps both. The only reason the police would be disinterested is because they realize you are insane. Get help. You need it.

      • Ronda

        Oh, and one more thing… This discussion is about ‘how to get rid of squatters’ – not ‘how to bash victims of rape by squatters’.. Sounds like a STALKER to me! Please do yourself, as well as others, a favor and keep your insensitive, no-nothing comments to yourself. Thank you.

        • Lisa Parker

          It is ALSO not an article about “What to do about mentally unstable people”. You are in the wrong forum lady.

    • Jean

      Why in heavens name would you continue living in a hell house where you’re “continually raped”? And I’d also love to know where your husband is every time this happens. Why is he not protecting you?

      • lucille brum

        Oh my god!!! Stick to the subject, that is, SQUATTERS!!! Or go to www dot INCUBUS dot com.. Lol…

    • Mr. Manfredgensenden

      What you can LEGALLY do is buy a big gun, get in the closet, wait for the ‘rapists’ and SHOOT THEM. But first, you may want to ask your husband if HE is the one drugging you. He may not be getting satisfaction in the normal ways.

      • Leen

        Gotta agree with everyone else that it just sounds crazy. Orally raped while asleep by unknown males? Are your lady bits really that nice that strange men are sneaking into your place through the floor on the regular just to get a taste and nothing else?
        People on certain drugs often believe people are hiding in the walls or under their floors…not accusing anyone of being a tweaker or anything but that fact just makes this story even harder to believe. This isn’t about squatting at all.

  • Jenna

    I have a squatter with a lease in my name which was forged. Any suggestions?

  • Renee

    Every situation is different. I was looking for an apartment and someone refer me to someone.I rented out an apartment from the person and moved in with my family members in January, I paid $2300 to moved in . After being there for almost 2 mnths I received a letter saying that our occupancy is illegal and that we may be victims of a criminal who fraudulently places us in the apartment and they gave us 7 days to leave. I don’t know what to do cause I have kids and no where to go. People telling me that I’m there for more than 30 days so they cant put me out so easily and I should tell them to take me to court, when I told them that they’re saying that they can only take me to court if I was a tenant and not a squatter .

  • Renee

    All I’m asking for is more time so I could find a place and leave. Any advice

  • Brian

    Empty commercial lot in San Benito county California not posted for no tresspassing I moved onto it June 6 2017 tresspassing signs went up February 1 2018 and tonight March 11 2018 a dumpster was dropped and driver said the fire Dept was going to be here in the morning. What squaters rights do I claim and did I establish Tennant’s rights 30 days in with non contact from the owner? What should I be worried about in the morning? Built a little cabin in back of lot and fully expect them to red tag it but beyond that what could happen?

  • Bernie Taryen

    Totally insane and ridiculous!

  • Lizzette

    The legal system with regard to tenants and squatters has to be the most ridiculous nonsense I’ve ever seen. The owner of the property pays for it, pays the taxes, pays insurance and then any deadbeat is allowed to STEAL (and YES that IS what living in a house you aren’t paying the rent for or you broke into or anything else IS!) I wish someone could explain to me who on earth came up with these ridiculous laws!! It’s like forcing property owners to help the homeless situation! Can’t landlords get together and somehow get these insane laws changed? Had enough experience with these idiots to last a lifetime. They actually somehow think they OWN the places and the law lets them! They also know all the tricks and what can get away with.

    • Lisa Parker

      Sadly, there are states like Commiefornia that give rise to these kinds of predicaments. I cannot for the life of me imagine why politicians and courts could even CONSIDER condoning these kinds of laws. It WAS and REMAINS a complete mystery to me.

  • Michael

    We bought a house 5 months ago so that my daughter and her female friend would have a place to stay. They were paying us and we paid the morgage payment. 2 or maybe 3 weeks ago daughter moved in boyfriend and friend moved in another couple without our permission to help pay rent but hasn’t. The bills are all in my name. No lease paperwork. Can I just kick them out for trespassing. Can I just move in myself?

    • Lisa Parker

      Arguably, your first error was not having paperwork. Your next move should probably be to sit down with your daughter and her friend and negotiate appropriate paperwork. Perhaps with the help of an attorney.
      If the ladies are not willing to have paperwork, start unlawful detainer actions immediately. At this moment you cannot do anything with the utilities or locks or anything that negatively impacts your thoughtful tenants. While you take action to straighten out the mess you have made, get a couple of good books on being a landlord and on being a tenant that deals with YOUR state. LEARN both of them. I hope your future holds better luck than you currently have.

  • Dennis neiditch

    You called your father a squatter. Im a landlord. Landlords hate squatters. Who are you to call me a squatter? Sometimes you have no clue what you’re talking about. You hurt my heart.

  • Jean

    Ronda, why in heavens name would you continue living in a hell house where you’re “continually raped”? And I’d also love to know where your husband is every time this happens. Why is he not protecting you?

  • Stephanie

    Yes, I helped someone out planning on renting two weeks they lost their job immediately , not paying the full two weeks then they become extremely sloppy, rude, overtaking the living room, keeping me up all night gaming, extremely hostile or snapping and had to call the cops and get a restraining order. Person knew he could take advantage of squatters rights and planned on floating or taking advantage and wasn’t even grateful or nice, utilities doubled didn’t help with that demanded me pay for his cigarettes, paid for his groceries omg…and then I was told his stuff can stay at my place. Horrible experience and extremely stressful they refused to leave or go to a shelter. Bummer in Summer squatter in winter.

    • Karen

      How about when it’s your own son and stops paying rent and then let’s this woman in that’s here every night that you don’t know. Stopped paying rent and is messing up the yard and the porch and verbally abusing me everyday. Now what??? My husband deceased and being bullied to death. I have bills to pay and being tortured everyday. In pre foreclosure cause he won’t pay his part. I’m in hell and treats me like I’m a lunatic and crazy. Help!!

      • Anne Mills

        Contact your local social service agency. They can help with elder abuse. See what they can do to help.

      • Anne Mills

        Karen, Contact your local social services department. Elder abuse is against the law and they may be able to help you with that.

      • Lisa Parker

        I am reading this long after you posted it, but…. lawyer up (ask senior services agency for assistance) and decide if you are a mom or a landlord. If you wish to be both, document everything, legally, so you can evict the I dividual that you had a hand in raising to be the way he is.

  • Sherry

    I’ve had a man renting one of my rooms for a little over three years. Around Halloween of 2016, he verbally assaulted me and threatened me to the point where I locked myself in my room, packed an overnight case and climbed out the window. Contra Costa county sheriff’s did nothing but tell me to either move or kick him out. However…the court has issued him leniency because he has HIV. He’s fighting it every step of the way while I live out here in an unfinished garage, surrounded with all of my belongings. I am a senior. By Contra Costa county laws, this is elder abuse. But the sheriff’s still refuse to enforce the laws. I am in California. Why do the criminals have all of the rights?

    • Sherry

      I failed to mention that he hasn’t paid rent in 16 months, owing me around 8000k now.

    • Mr. Manfredgensenden

      Sherry – The criminals have all the rights because you live in CALIFORNIA.

    • Gwyllm

      Sherry – The criminals have all the rights because you live in CALIFORNIA.

      • Sherry

        I am aware of this unfortunate fact. I’m looking for any help, any ways around this if there are any.

    • Lisa Parker

      Because you live in a state which has earned a newer nickname- Commifornia.
      It is the citizens who have a say in who they elect to lead them. Make sure you are making a wise choice when you punch that ballot button!

  • Bokhoven

    my lover left me after 4 years of relationship and my life fell apart but when i came across dr_mack@ yahoo. com he restored my relationship and my lover came back❤❤

  • Lisa Headley

    I just went to eviction court. I have a hold over tenant who hasn’t paid rent in 3 months. And for 6 months before that I didn’t charge her any rent because we were flood victims. I won in court and she’s supposed to pay me $1500 and vacate the property. Next Wednesday I have to pay another $130 for a writ to get her out with help from J of P. If that doesn’t work I have 2 options: I can get my 380 and blow her and fat boyfriend out on their a**es or I can hire movers and move her out myself. Since I’m sure I wouldn’t like prison food, I choose to do the latter.

    • Lisa Parker

      Depending on the laws of your state you may not even be able to do that. You may be required to hire Marshalls to remove her belongings and her body(ies).
      Be care, do it right, and the SECOND it is accomplished, change ALL of the locks. Good luck!

  • Jordan

    I have some friends that have been living in The state of Cali for many years. They currently have been renting an apartment from a friend of a friend but no contract was made. They have sublet one of their rooms to a friend and now refuses to pay. There are no contracts of any kind and this roommmate refuses to communicate. Please help with any advice.

    • Lisa Parker

      No doubt you have heard the acronym ‘SOL’ ? That is where your friends are. Lawyer up. Sometimes you van successfully intimidate such a person and physically remove them yourself with things blowing up in your face, but that is dicey and illegal. Sounds like the squatter is wise to that, so, if it were me, I’d go the legal route. Once handled, NEVER again enter into such arrangements without knowing what you are doing and without proper paperwork. (Yes, I know it is not YOU, but that is the most concise way to address the question!) Good luck to your friends.

  • Diane

    Good education

    • Lisa Parker

      Even the problem of the woman who is orally raped nightly while unconcious by unknown persons who hide in invisible crawl spaces, LOL? !
      If anyone finds a solution for THAT one (besides a straightjacket…) I sure do hope I hear what it is!

  • Kevin

    My Father, My Brother and I own about 4.7 acres of land, My sister and her husband bought a trailer and moved it onto the property, which was fine with us. That was about 6 or 8 years ago. Now my sister and her husband are not getting along. He has been physically abusive to her and now she is moving things out of the trailer. I’m wondering what we can do, they have never paid any rent to us, we didn’t expect them to. We want him gone off of our property. The trailer is in His name but the property is in OUR names. What are the best options to remedy the situation?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Kevin,
      If you want him off your property, ask him to leave. If he won’t leave, call the police. The police can further instruct you on what to do. If they determine it’s a criminal matter, they handle it. If they determine it’s a civil matter, you might need to go through the eviction process.

    • Lisa Parker

      A restraining order on your sister’s part and a lawyer on you, your brother and your father’s part. You didnt mention the state, but laws vary widely.
      Do not let the situation continue without resolution or y’all could find yourselves with limited options, quite possible that are also unsatisfactory to anyone but the abusive husband.

  • Emma

    Honestly this is all bull shit if you happen to find someone on your property be kind and understanding because they’re obviously going through it ask how long they plan on staying and if you can help them in any way maybe give them work or give them some money to stay the night at a hotel or something they are way less likely to leave if you give them an attitude

  • Keith ward

    I was living in my house with my son and girlfriend .. I let my girlfriends daughter and boyfriend move in because The daughter was pregnant .. they were living with the boyfriends mom but didn’t like his sister and her husband .. therebisctoom forvyhem was o go back .. my girlfriends mom had. A stroke and we moved in with her mom to help out .. the original agreement was they could stay till they had money to get their own place . The started crap with my son to try to get me to kick him out .. I want to let my son and his girlfriend live there and have them pay the utility’s .. the furniture and appliances are all mine I pay fir everything .. now they won’t leave .. how do I get them out ??

  • E. Dye

    So let me get this straight. A person can unlawfully walk into your property and start living there even though you did not rent to them. So basically they are stealing something from you and the police can’t do anything about it because its a civil matter. But someone can steal my car and drive it around and I can report that stolen and the police will take action. Why in the world have leases then with people if a lease means nothing. If I don’t rent to someone and they move into my house without my permission and I have to still pay the mortgage or lose my property then they are stealing from me and my kids. People are going to keep doing this until they punish the squatters. Sad justice system we have.

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